Angelina Jolie is only 44 years old, but I have no problem calling her the legend. The icon. She’ll soon be entering the MCU in the upcoming The Eternals movie, but her storied career has taken her everywhere. She’s like Clint Eastwood in that she acts, directs movies, produces, you name it.
And since Angelina Jolie is so amazing, it’s hard to pick her very best films. Now, this list will be relegated to the movies she’s acted in, not directed (Though, I do love In The Land of Blood and Honey). But in the end, you really can’t go wrong with Ms. Jolie. Even her not so great movies are somehow elevated by her presence in them. Honorable mentions go to: Sky Captain And the World of Tomorrow, Salt, Changeling, and The Good Shepherd.
10. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a really silly film, and that’s just fine. It’s probably not saying much, but it’s one of the greatest video game movies of all time. What makes it so enjoyable though is Angelina Jolie, who plays the titular Lara Croft. The plot concerns the Illuminati and planetary alignment, and it really does feel like a story line that belongs in a video game.
But Jolie makes it seem like it's the most important story in the world. And I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say this, but if there was no Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, then there probably wouldn’t even be female-led superhero movies like Captain Marvel or Black Widow today. While there were a few other action movies like Aliens that had female-led performances before it, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was the first movie that actually pushed the fact that the leading role was played by a woman. You go, girl!
9. Hackers (1995)
Has Hackers aged well? No, not really. But that’s why it’s so awesome. It’s like a time capsule to the 90s. The story concerns a bunch of teenage hackers who are out to take on the man! Or something like that. Angelina Jolie plays a short-haired teenager who enjoys video games and leading unsuspecting new students to the roof of the high school.
In all truths, like Tomb Raider, Hackers isn’t the best movie in the world. But its cult fan base has cemented the movie as the go-to movie when talking about the early internet, and Angelina Jolie’s cocksure performance is one such reason why it’s so beloved.
8. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith will likely be remembered as the movie that brought Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt together as a couple. But the Doug Liman directed action-comedy is a really enjoyable film of its own merit. The story is about a bored husband and wife who are actually assassins in competing agencies, and they’re sent out to eliminate each other. It’s kind of like True Lies, but slightly less good.
Brad Pitt is great in the movie, but Jolie manages to outshine him. It’s not the hardest role she’s ever had to pull off, but she’s so damn good in action movies, that it was expected by this point.
7. Beowulf (2007)
“Hrothgar! Hrothgar!” Beowulf doesn’t look too hot today (it has that whole uncanny valley thing going for it). But the story is pretty faithful to the original poem of Beowulf, which is about a warrior who slays a monster (Grendel), then that monster’s mother, and finally a dragon.
Angelina Jolie plays the monster’s mother. But this is probably the greatest deviation from the original story since Angelina Jolie is far too attractive to play a swamp hag. Instead, she rises up out of the water like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now and tries to seduce Beowulf. It’s an interesting take on the character, and one that could probably only be pulled of by Ms. Angelina Jolie.
6. Maleficent (2014)
Disney has been doing a lot of live-action retellings of their classic cartoons lately, and many of them simply keep the same exact story line as the original movie with a few changes here or there. But Maleficent is different. Taking the Wicked approach, it tells the story from the “villain’s” perspective, and Angelina Jolie plays said “villain”.
With Sleeping Beauty being one of the ancient Disney classics, it would take a great deal to modernize the story, but Maleficent manages it with aplomb. Jolie is both sinister and sympathetic, and you really feel for her. Especially with the horrific “wing-tearing” scene, which even Jolie admitted was a metaphor for rape. And this is a Disney film, mind you.
5. Wanted (2008)
Out of all the action movies Angelina Jolie ever did, I consider Wanted her best (and I can’t believe I forgot to mention it on my superhero movies that weren’t from Marvel or DC list. What was I thinking?). Angelina Jolie plays Fox, an assassin who mentors an account manager to also become an assassin in a secret group called The Fraternity.
Wanted is 100% Bad. Ass. I mean, for God’s sake, the characters can curve their bullets. Angelina Jolie is just so cool in this movie. It’s pretty much the epitome of action films. And while she may not be the main character of the movie (that would be James McAvoy), she’s definitely the star attraction.
4. A Mighty Heart (2007)
Even though there was a bit of a brouhaha over casting the white Angelina Jolie as the mixed-raced Mariane Pearl, this is probably Ms. Jolie’s second best performance to date. Jolie plays the wife of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, and the movie feels more like a documentary than anything else.
What makes this movie so great is that Jolie tones down the star power and just plays it straight, which makes it even more distressing and sad. It’s not a fun or enjoyable movie, but it’s an important one, and Angelina Jolie makes it work.
3. Gia (1998)
I know I haven’t mentioned it in this entire list so far—because this list is not about that—but Angelina Jolie is super hot. And Gia is probably—no, definitely—her sexiest role to date. In this biographical HBO movie, Jolie plays the real Gia Marie Carangi, who was a supermodel to the nth degree.
What makes Gia an amazing star turn for Jolie, though, is the many ranges of emotions she has to play. Suffice it to say, Ms. Carangi didn’t have the happiest of lives, and between the drugs and the wild outbursts (and the unfortunate AIDs diagnosis) Angelina Jolie proved that she could pull off any role. All these years later, and this is still one of her most powerful performances to date.
2. Kung-Fu Panda (2008)
It’s funny to think, but even my four-year-old daughter knows who Angelina Jolie is since the actress voices the role of her favorite Kung-Fu Panda character, Tigress. The original Kung-Fu Panda is the kind of movie that you could watch again and again and never get tired of it. It’s the story of a Panda, played by Jack Black, who becomes a martial arts legend, and Jolie’s character, Tigress, is the toughest warrior in the Furious Five, a band of expert fighters that the Kung Fu Panda idolizes and eventually befriends.
Angelina Jolie is just perfect as Tigress. She’s tough as nails but exudes a vulnerable softness that only Jolie could pull off. Honestly, it’s probably my favorite Angelina Jolie movie, but it’s not her best movie. That would be the next entry on this list.
1. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
The movie that garnered Jolie’s first (and only, so far) Academy Award win for acting, Girl, Interrupted is the quintessential Angelina Jolie movie. The film is based on the memoir of a girl who stays in a mental institution. But that girl is not Angelina Jolie. It’s Winona Rider. Despite this fact, Angelina Jolie is by far the most interesting character in the movie. Seriously, when I think about this film, I have to force myself to remember that Angelina Jolie is not the main character. She's just the one I remember the most and associate with this film.
It’s because she’s just so charismatic in this movie. She plays a sociopath who gets what she wants because she’s so damn charming, and she ultimately forms a bond with Winona Rider’s character that is both icky and somewhat sweet at the same time. This was the movie that made me fall in love with Angelina Jolie, so I may be biased, but apparently, the Academy loved her, too, since they awarded her the Best Supporting Actress award that year.
And that’s the list. Angelina Jolie continues to impress and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Whether she’s directing or acting, I’ll always buy a ticket to an Angelina Jolie vehicle. And even though she has a few stinkers tucked into her filmography (The Tourist, anyone?) even her worst films are a lot better than most other actresses’ best films. That’s why she’ll always have a place in my heart.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.